THE LAST OGRE

 

INTRODUCTION

INSPECTOR SHAMUS INVESTIGATES

 

They say the last ogre

Died near Saratoga -

A town in the U.S. of A.

But that claim is not true

And IÕll prove it to you

If you read my story today.

 

These ogres were creatures

With very strange features

Including two horns on their head,

They were huge scary dudes

With real mean attitudes

And filled all the cavemen with dread.

 

They just loved to eat meat

And found nothing as sweet

As a tasty caveman or two,

Be they short or quite tall -

Be they cuddly or small -

Heck, even a grandma would do.

 

But what drove ogres wild

Was the whiff of a child

Then nothing could stand in their way,

TheyÕd stop what theyÕre doing -

Spit out what theyÕre chewing -

And follow the scent night and day.

 

Our species seemed fated

To become outdated

For thatÕs Mother NatureÕs first law,

But cavemen were plucky

And so very lucky

That ogres had one fatal flaw. 

 

The big guys werenÕt humble

And loved rough and tumble

And werenÕt really into chitchat,

Their tempers were short

And IÕm glad to report

TheyÕd fight at the drop of a hat.

 

 And this led to great wars

With the giant dinosaurs

Who also were very headstrong,

So when two of them met

You could take a safe bet

That trouble would soon come along.

 

But with all due respects

When they tackled T Rex

It really was not a fair fight,

ÔCause that mighty lizard

Was a combat wizard

And gobbled them up with one bite.

 

They died by the dozens

Along with their cousins

And their numbers rapidly waned,

But they kept on fighting

And never stopped biting

Till only one ogre remained.

 

Although filled with mystery

IÕve studied their history

For they lived a long time ago,

And that ogre survived

Until 1505

As my new adventure will show.

 

And this is its story

Although sometimes gory

But reading it wonÕt be a chore,

ItÕs very exciting

Packed full of sword fighting

And starts with a terrible war.

 

IÕm Inspector Shamus

And once I was famous

For locking up all kinds of crooks,

But IÕm now done with crime

And spend most of my time

Out searching for middle grade books.

 

I look in strange places

Like vaults and bookcases

And librÕies five hundred years old,

Till I find a story

Of love and great glory

That never before has been told.

 

I found this manuscript

In an old English crypt

And I think itÕs just right for you -

Hold on to your laces

WeÕre off to far places

To see if it might just be true....

 

BOOK ONE

OLDE ENGLAND

THE GREAT OGRE WAR

 

CHAPTER ONE

THE COMING

 

Priests called its arrival

A plague from the Bible -

A time of great sorrow and woe,

It was in September

Old folks still remember

Just two score and one year ago.

 

It was just after three

The old-timers agree

When a scary monster was seen,

It was the Last Ogre

That took the woods over

And lordy was that creature mean!

 

Standing ten foot and more

From its head to the floor

It easily weighed half a ton,

It ate the Lord Mayor,

And a soccer player,

And even devoured a nun.

 

It ate cows and horses

And the Special Forces

The king sent to take the beast down,

And while folks were sleeping

The brute would come creeping

And eat all the pets in the town.

 

The king sent the army

And things got quite barmy

When none of his soldiers came back,

When his cavalry fled

He hid under his bed

And told his whole family to pack.

 

When the future looks bleak

And the spirit is weak

Then Lady Luck may lend a hand,

And send down a saviour

On his best behaviour -

A soldier from a foreign land....

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

A VIKING ARRIVES

 

There came a huge Norseman -

A fantastic horseman -

Whose long sword was strapped to his side,

And over one shoulder

In a leather holder

A huge axe at least a yard wide.

 

He was known as Steinar

And there was none finer

To have on your side in a brawl,

He arrived from the west -

Had a fifty inch chest -

And stood six feet eight inches tall.

 

HeÕd seen in a vision

A monster arisen -

The last of its terrible kind,

And had followed a star

To this green land afar

Where this awful creature heÕd find.

 

He landed at Dover

In search of the Ogre

And swiftly set off on his quest,

In a butt-kicking mood

With a knapsack of food

And daggers tucked under his vest....

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

FACE TO FACE WITH THE MONSTER

 

From the townsfolk he hears -

Through their sorrow and tears -

The damage the monster has done,

How it smashed down their wall

With no trouble at all

And ate all their children for fun.

 

The wild tales they all tell

Rang a loud warning bell

And hint of a creature from yore -

A giant savage man

From before time began -

The kind you would find in folklore.

 

So he gallops at speed

Upon his mighty steed

Through crowds of people aÕ cheering,

As he follows its trail

Over hill and through dale

And into a forest clearing.

 

There, beneath a tall tree

A dire sight he did see

That turned even Viking blood cold,

TÕwas an ogre indeed

Asleep after a feed

And it was a sight to behold.

 

It looked like a monster

The devil would sponsor

For soldiers lay piled up in heaps,

There were skulls aplenty -

Their dark eyes all empty -

And that really gave him the creeps.

 

As each second counted

He swiftly dismounted

And drew out his long Viking sword,

Then shouted a warning

On that fateful morning

While praising great Odin, his Lord.

 

It was not SteinarÕs way

Sleeping ogres to slay

For there was no honour in that,

So he waited a beat

ÔTill it got to its feet

As fast as a giant alley cat.

 

On seeing this monster

HeÕd set out to conquer

Poor Steinar turned white as a sheet,

IÕm delighted to say

That his horse ran away

Or he might have pondered retreat.

 

But his courage held fast

As it had in the past

As he lifted his head and sang,

And his words of valour

Were heard in Valhalla

As through that green meadow they rang.

 

ÒCome you now, come to me

Diddle dum, diddle dee

As we cross the bridge into Hell,

Come you now, come to me

Diddle dum, diddle dee

And stand where the great heroes fell,

All you have will be mine

As we drink OdinÕs wine

Diddle dum, diddle dum, diddle dee.....Ó

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

A MIGHTY BATTLE

 

It picked up a long club

From behind a thick shrub

And swung it with all of its might,

The long sword went flying

And thereÕs no denying

The ogre was winning the fight.

 

To survive these attacks

Steinar drew out his axe

And used it to block a great swipe,

To be very candid

If that blow had landed

There would be no story to type.

 

He gave a mighty hack

And the ogre fell back

Surrendering skin to the blade,

From the look in its eyes

It was very surprised

And even a little afraid.

 

The monster was wary

For the axe was scary

And Steinar was fast on his feet,

He looked like a soldier

Only bigger and bolder

But still very tasty to eat.

 

It could be debated

That it got frustrated

For the Viking fought with great skill,

Unlike all the kingÕs men

Who had died in its den

This big one was harder to kill.

 

There is no way to say

Who was winning that day

For it was a fight to the death,

On that great battlefield

There was no sign of yield -

Just sometimes a shortage of breath.

 

The ogre was stronger

But he could last longer

And was a lot faster as well,

Both fighters were hurting

And red blood was spurting

All over that small wooded dell.

 

Then it let out a groan

As it slipped on a bone

And fell to its knees with a crash,

In the blink of an eye

The tough Viking let fly

With a mighty backhanded slash.

 

I can say with great pride,

As it cut through its side,

That the ogre screamed out in pain,

While it stared at the blood

That ran out in a flood

The axe rose and fell once again.

 

And if it had landed

Where Steinar had planned it

This tale would have ended right here,

But the beast moved its head

And instead of been dead

The blade merely cut off one ear.

 

With its face full of blood

Mixed with good English mud

The Viking had broken its will,

And its eyes opened wide

In that green countryside

As Steinar moved in for the kill.

 

 

Something strange happened then

To the strongest of men

As his trusty boot seemed to slip,

Then he felt a strong shove

And a tug on his glove

And these caused the Viking to trip.

 

Steinar had no idea

Fate and Fortune were near

And this was just part of their plan,

By the time heÕd recovered,

 Alas, he discovered,

 The ogre had turned tail and ran....

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

INSPECTOR SHAMUS TALKS ABOUT

FATE AND FORTUNE

 

From the time we are born

Till we take our last yawn

ThereÕs one thing I can guarantee,

And that is, by and large

We are never in charge

Of that thing we call destiny.

 

ThereÕs a great master plan

For the life of each man

And everyone must play their role,

From Emperor to kitten

Each deed has been written

Upon the great Destiny Scroll.

 

So when SteinarÕs foot slipped

It was part of their script

For the ogreÕs time hadnÕt come,

And that cannot take place

Till two lovers embrace

And their precious hearts beat as one....

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

STEINAR SEARCHES FOR THE OGRE

 

Steinar followed its spoor

Right across the great moor

From midday Ôtill deep in the night,

Through groves of green clover

He searched for the ogre

But it had just vanished from sight.

 

He thought it must have drowned

For no trace could be found

When the trail led into a bog,

Then, just as he had feared

The large tracks disappeared

As he splashed around in the fog.

 

His big hands were so numb

He could not feel his thumb,

For Steinar had lost too much blood,

And so he could not tell

When his mighty axe fell

And vanished into the thick mud.

 

The full moon was still high

In the dark evening sky

When Steinar rode back into town,

So bloodied and battered -

His ribcage so shattered -

That he made the doctors all frown.

 

There was a mighty cheer

When he showed them the ear

That night in the KingÕs Hospital,

Nurses formed a long queue

To bring bowls of hot stew

And give him a pain killing pill.

 

Because he was so large

The head doctor took charge

And cut off his shirt and britches,

He sewed up the gashes

And all of the slashes

With over one hundred stitches.

 

And throughout the nation

There was celebration

As swiftly the good news was spread,

Every eye soon turned moist

As the people rejoiced,

That the dreaded ogre was dead.

 

 

Though he walked with a cane

And was always in pain,

He held back a strong Viking curse,

For although rather shy

He had one Nordic eye

Set firmly on a pretty nurse.

 

Her name was Nurse Daisy

And she drove him crazy

For she worked close by in the crche,

And though merely a slip

Her tongue cut like a whip

Whenever he tried to get fresh.

 

And when he was better

He received a short letter

Delivered by a noble lord,

The king had requested

That when he was rested

That he claim a well earned reward.

 

So, with bags of bright gold

For his actions so bold

And a pretty wife by his side,

To the sound of church bells

They all said their farewells

And then sailed away with the tide.....

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

THE VIKING PERISHES

 

Poor SteinarÕs life ended

The day he befriended

A peasant on a Chinese lake,

He had pledged his long sword

To a local war lord

When he made a silly mistake.

 

As the sun was downing

He saw a girl drowning

And dived in to go to her aid,

Though no medal winner

He was a good swimmer

And she was a pretty young maid.

 

Now, all might have been fine

If heÕd just read the sign

But Steinar could not read Chinese,

It was a strong warning

That Ôgators were swarming -

So stay out the water, please.

 

And a minute later

A huge alligator

Just swallowed him up in one bite,

I have recently learned -

Though it must be confirmed -

That it was one heck of a sight.

 

And when she heard the news

His poor wife got the blues

And this IÕm reliably told,

Daisy tore out her hair

For she didnÕt know where

The Viking had hidden their gold.

 

And there was no maybe

That with her new baby

That Daisy still wanted to roam,

So she sold her gold ring

For the best it would bring

And bought a cheap ticket back home.

 

Here she wed a nice man

By the name of Kilban

Whom she quickly came to adore,

He was a woodcutter

Who had a slight stutter

But that made the folks love him more.

 

They named the baby Ned

And moved into his shed

Where she found him easy to please,

She would serve him mince pie

And then hit the bullÕs eye

With crackers and his favourite cheese.

 

When, in the course of time

Ned came into his prime

He married a pretty young maid,

Who wore bonny dresses

And had golden tresses

Which she liked to wear in a braid.

 

She gave birth to a boy -

A large bundle of joy -

And on this IÕm sure weÕll agree,

That because of his girth

It was a tricky birth

For the lad weighed ten pounds and three.

 

The child grew tall and strong

And before very long

He needed a much bigger bed,

And though still a minor

He looked just like Steinar

So everyone called him Large Ned....

 

 

BOOK TWO

NED AND ALICE

TWENTY YEARS LATER.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

THE WOODCUTTER

 

In times long forgotten

Near fields of wild cotton

There lived a lonely young man,

He was a wood cutter

Who loved bread and butter

With dollops of strawberry jam.

 

And in this green valley

Where sheep dillydally

He had built a large wooden hut,

With a stout entrance door

And a wobbly floor

All made from the timber heÕd cut.

 

He stood six foot and eight

With a healthy heart rate

And he would turn twenty in May,

Although not fully grown

He now weighed twenty stone

And seemed to grow taller each day.

 

He was known as Large Ned

And each night before bed

He prayed to the Father above,

Asking neither for wealth

Nor continued good health

But just for a lady to love.

 

He was rather striking

And looked like a Viking

With long hair that came tumbling down,

All the girls would turn pink

When he gave them a wink

While selling his wood in the town.

 

He was charming for sure

But alas, far too poor

To ask for a fair maidenÕs hand,

Their moms wanted bakers

Or fine carriage makers

To buy her that gold wedding band.

 

So when he was around

All the girls were house-bound

For he was a handsome feller,

Folks kept all their daughters

Locked up in their quarters

Far from the yummy wood seller.

 

So he lived all alone

In his small wooden home

Without a fair lady to woo,

He would try to relax

While he sharpened his axe

Or sewed a new patch on his shoe.

 

I think I should mention

To ease all the tension

He thought about getting a pet,

For thereÕs no remedy

 For a sad memory -

A dog was a much better bet.

 

He found an Alsatian -

The best in the nation

That used to belong to a gnome,

This most marvellous hound

Was locked in the dog pound

And needed to find a good home.

 

It cost him a farthing

To set free this darling

And take the dog back to his hut,

In a very short while -

In fact less than a mile

HeÕd fallen in love with the mutt.

 

The dogÕs name was Ethel

And she was quite special

And followed wherever he went,

She had two squiggly toes

And a rather long nose

That was just a teeny bit bent.

 

When she smelled a rabbit

SheÕd speedily nab it

And that night theyÕd have rabbit stew,

And after this banquet

HeÕd lift up his blanket

And theyÕd snuggle the whole night through.

 

But unknown to Large Ned

As he sleeps in his bed

Dark forces have come out to play,

Their master has spoken -

A beast has awoken

And soon will be coming his way....

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

THE PRINCESS

 

If I have your consent

I would like to present

A maiden with lots on her mind,

SheÕs a princess, you see

Just as cute as can be

But sheÕs not the marrying kind.

 

Her much loved dear mother

And her younger brother

Both died in an awful mishap,

When a candle so bright

Set a curtain alight

While they were both taking a nap.

 

So, although still a teen

One day soon sheÕll be queen,

For she is the heir to the throne,

And itÕs time she was wed

To a noble, well-bred

For she is now almost full grown.

 

SheÕs had many suitors

From princes to tutors

But she finds it easy to see,

ItÕs the crown they might wear

And not her golden hair

That has them all down on one knee.

 

Now the king is concerned

About suitors sheÕs spurned

And he calls her in for a chat,

For heÕs rather afraid

SheÕll become an old maid

And the last thing he needs is that.

 

He tries to convince her

That being a spinster

Is not really part of the plan,

And that itÕs her duty

To stop being snooty

And marry a suitable man.

 

She pretends to agree

As she sits at his knee

While hoping his lecture soon ends,

For at the palace gates

Her new carriage awaits

To take her to meet with her friends.

 

These friends call her Alice -

But not at the palace

Where she must wear ribbons and pearls,

But when they are alone

Far away from the throne

They treat her as one of the girls.

 

They all meet every day

In a village cafe

ThatÕs right in the centre of town,

It sells tea and hot buns

Topped with honey that runs

And makes a right mess on her gown.

 

ItÕs always a tossup

WhoÕs heard the most gossip

And knows of a scandal or two,

They chinwag and chatter

And sometimes they natter

While sipping their favourite brew.

 

But for our pretty miss

All these mornings of bliss

Will soon be a thing of the past,

For though sheÕs a cutie

She must do her duty

And that time is coming up fastÉ.

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

NED DREAMS OF RICHES

 

 

Ned hears of a cart

That is falling apart

But he might be able to fix,

This came from Matilda

The wife of a builder

WhoÕd used it to carry his bricks.

 

One wheel was quite buckled

The dear lady chuckled

And one side was cracked right in two,

But with hopes and a prayer

And a nail here and there

HeÕd soon have it looking like new.

 

Her husband was willing -

For an extra shilling -

To throw in a stubborn old mule,

Who had long lanky legs

And just loved scrambled eggs

And went by the name of Abdul.

 

There was one golden rule

When it came to this mule

And that was to be on your guard,

For itÕs not amusing

To have purple bruising -

For Abdul could kick rather hard.

 

In MatildaÕs garden

They shook on the bargain

Over tea and freshly baked bread,

With EthelÕs tail wagging -

The cart zig and zagging -

They wobbled their way to his shed.

 

With his woodcutting skill
He carved out a new wheel

Which happily ran straight and true,

Then, with care and much pride

He repaired the cracked side

And painted his cart royal blue.

 

And early next morning

As the sun was dawning

He hitched up his mule to the cart,

For Large Ned had a plan

To become a rich man

And he was quite eager to start.

 

Softly whistling a tune

He chopped wood until noon

Cheered on by a pond full of frogs,

Then he wiped his damp brow

As he cut the last bough

To add to his large pile of logs.

 

He put on a clean vest - 

ÔCause he must look his best -

And set off to make a few bob,

It took some sweet talking

To keep that mule walking

But that was all part of the job.

 

He parked his tiny cart

Near the vegetable mart

And I am delighted to say,

That it was a good spot

ÔCause he soon sold the lot

     And earned a bright shilling that day.......

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

THE KING GETS IMPATIENT

 

Several months have now passed

Since he spoke to her last

But still sheÕs not been on a date,

HeÕs told her to marry

But she chose to tarry

And now she has left it too late.

 

And so he has decreed

That a husband he needs

To marry his darling young girl,

To him it is vital

She marries a title -

At least a Grand Duke or an Earl.

 

He sends out town criers

With hand written flyers

To every grand house in the land,

Inviting young nobles

And other rich hopefuls

To ask for the princessÕs hand.

 

And they come in their droves

All dressed up in fine clothes

The long and the short and the tall, 

But their airs and graces

And white powdered faces

DonÕt wow the young princess at all.

 

She comes close to dozing

While they are proposing

And asking if they could be wed,

She tries to be patient

But some are so ancient

They could be her father instead.

 

SheÕs been waiting for love -

The grand kind from above -

But that hasnÕt happened as yet,

Now being swept off her feet

By a handsome athlete

Is a dream sheÕd better forget.

 

For the kingÕs insisting

That she stops resisting

Or heÕll pick the man she must wed,

She canÕt stall anymore

For his word is the law

And thereÕs nothing more to be said....

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

A CHANCE MEETING

 

I must bring you sad news

For when she couldnÕt choose

Her father decided instead,

And her poor aching heart

Fell completely apart

And she spent the weekend in bed.

 

As Alice expected

The king has selected

A prince from a kingdom nearby,

And itÕs hard to be nice

When youÕve only met twice

But she is determined to try.

 

His name is Prince Barry

And next month theyÕll marry

And thereÕs still a lot she must do,

But sheÕs now on her way

To their favourite cafe

To wish all her dear friends adieu.

 

There are tears in her eyes -

Which is no big surprise -

For this is the last time theyÕll meet,

But, as they near the shop

Her coach skids to a stop

And Alice gets thrown from her seat.

 

As she climbs to her knees

The first thing that she sees

Is a man unloading his cart,

And IÕm happy to say

When the man looked her way

She felt something change in her heart.

 

At her driverÕs loud shout

The tall man spun about

His handsome face wearing a grin,

And his long golden hair -

All aÕ swirl in the air -

Soon had her poor head in a spin.

 

He knows not who she is

And so blows her a kiss

While moving his cart out the way,

Giving a cheeky bow

And then touching his brow

While wishing them all a fine day.

 

She feels a flash of guilt

For heÕs very well built

And looks to be rather divine,

And I tell you no yarn

HeÕs as wide as a barn

And stands at least six feet and nine.

 

In her mind Alice sees

The tall man on his knees

As he asks the king for her hand,

HeÕs dressed up as a knight

And its love at first sight

As he slips on her wedding band.

 

Then her coach rides on by

And she lets out a sigh

For her dream was just fantasy,

He may be quite pleasant

But heÕs still a peasant

And thatÕs not the kingÕs cup of tea......

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

NED BUYS AN AXE

 

At the blacksmithÕs small shop

NedÕs cart comes to a stop,

For he canÕt believe what he sees,

ItÕs an old battle axe

That costs two pounds with tax

And leaves him quite weak at the knees.

 

The iron headÕs a yard wide

As it lies on its side

But the handle has rotted away,

 And though covered in mould

He can see that itÕs old

And wonders how much it might weigh.

 

A young blacksmith named George

Is at work at the forge,

When he enters through the front door,

He soon learns it was found

In a hole in the ground

Quite near to the swamp on the moor.

 

Ned does not hesitate

For he just cannot wait

And pays the full asking amount,

The poor ladÕs in such haste

That good money goes waste

When he doesnÕt get a discount.

 

To clean the heavy blade

A thick polish heÕs made

And he sets to work with a will,

And when the blade is clean

It emits a bright gleam

That gives our woodcutter a thrill.

 

Its new handle is strong

And near seven feet long

And the blade is a perfect fit,

And that night in his bed

ThereÕs a song in his head

As he sleeps alongside of it.

 

ÒCome you now, come to me

Diddle dum, diddle dee

As we cross the bridge into Hell,

Come you now, come to me

Diddle dum, diddle dee

And stand where the great heroes fell,

All you have will be mine

As we drink OdinÕs wine

Diddle dum, diddle dum, diddle dee........Ó

 

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

ON THE WAY TO THE CHURCH

 

Along the wedding route

Lines of sentries salute

And make all the young maidens sigh,

Handsome guards ride ahead

Looking dashing in red

 As the wedding party goes by.

 

Two high stepping stallions

With bright gold medallions

Pull the royal carriage with ease,

As the stallions trot past

The large crowd is aghast

At how high they both lift their knees.

 

Trying hard to look proud

Alice waves to the crowd

But finds it not easy to do,

And when sheÕs looking sad

Her dear eagle-eyed dad

Gives her a sharp nudge with his shoe.

 

She is very nervous

ÔCause after the service

TheyÕll leave on a long honeymoon,

Her new clothes have been packed

And the suitcases stacked

To give them both plenty of room.

 

So she tries to be brave

And gives out the odd wave

Her wedding dress bunched at her knee,

 Just ahead, round the bend

Her short journey will end

For there waits her husband to be.

 

As they near the small church

The whole world seems to lurch

As she sees a monster appear,

With a scar on its face

Which is right in the place

Of where there should be a large ear.

 

And, without being told

She could see it was old

For its brow was wrinkled with age,

But, although round-shouldered

The red eyes still smouldered

As its face contorted with rage.

 

Then, with frightening speed

It struck down her lead steed

With one mighty blow from its fist,

Its huge hand was immense

Which, of course, makes good sense

When you saw the size of its wrist. 

 

As both horses tumble

Things get in a jumble

And the carriage falls on its side,

The king flies through the air -

Arms and legs everywhere -

As he lands on top of the bride.

 

Amidst frightened chatter

The wedding guests scatter

And most hide away in the church,

The kingÕs soldiers, as one,

Well, they all cut and run,

And leave everyone in the lurch.

 

An old man in the crowd

Then cries out very loud,

As he limps about on his cane,

ÒItÕs the ogre,Ó he yells,

Above the noise of bells,

ÒThe vile beast has come back again...!Ó

 

 

BOOK THREE

THE RECKONING

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

THE ROYAL FAMILY IN PERIL

 

Alice holds the kingÕs hand

For they both understand

The danger thatÕs lurking outside,

And the king is aware

That this sorry affair

Is due to his own foolish pride.

 

So, if they make it through

The first thing he will do

Is call a halt to the marriage,

And hope her intended

Is not too offended

When heÕs sent home in a carriage.

 

Then thereÕs a deep rumble

And all their hopes crumble

As the heavy coach starts to creak,

And when the ogre looks in

And gives them both a grin

Poor Alice lets out a loud shriek.....

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

NED COMES TO TOWN

 

ItÕs the royal wedding

And thatÕs where heÕs heading

Though heÕll stay away from the church,

HeÕll park over the road

With his sweet smelling load

Of freshly cut Old English Birch.

 

So he loads his blue cart

And gets an early start

For itÕs a long way into town,

And if luck runs his way

On this grand holiday

HeÕll easily earn half-a-crown.

 

He lets his mule settle

Then whistles for Ethel

And they all depart on their trip,

And it doesnÕt take long

ÔTill theyÕre trotting along

At more than a reasonable clip.

 

He is eating an apple

As they near the chapel

But soon knows that somethingÕs not right,

HeÕs expecting huge throngs

And some loud wedding songs

But thereÕs not a person in sight.

 

ThereÕs a coach overturned

And heÕs rather concerned

For it is the bridal carriage,

One white stallion lays dead

From a blow to the head

And the street is strewn with baggage.  

 

And it canÕt be denied

That his eyes opened wide

When something huge moved near the coach,

It was so tremendous -

Good Lord please defend us -

That he was afraid to approach.

 

But when Ned hears a scream

Fate and Fortune both beam

For this is how itÕs meant to be,

And they sit and they smirk

At their fine handiwork

ThatÕs brought Ned to his destiny.

 

 

But Ned is still frantic

ÔCause itÕs so gigantic

And must be impossibly strong,

When from somewhere within

A calm voice starts to sing

The words of an old battle song.

 

 ÒCome you now, come to me

Diddle dum, diddle dee

As we cross the bridge into Hell,

Come you now, come to me

Diddle dum, diddle dee

And stand where the great heroes fell,

All you have will be mine

As we drink OdinÕs wine

Diddle dum, diddle dum, diddle dee....

 

 

CHAPTER NINETEEN

FULL CIRCLE

 

ItÕs a most stirring song

And as Ned sings along

All of his misgivings depart,

With his axe in his hand

He cannot understand

The joy he feels deep in his heart.

 

When the beast hears him sing

Alarm bells start to ring

And it pulls away from the door,

The giant ogre stands tall

As it tries to recall

Just where it has heard it before.

 

But the sight of the axe

Stops it dead in its tracks

As memories come flooding back,

And the long golden hair

It would know anywhere

As Large Ned moves in to attack.

 

It recalls the wide blade

And the whoosh that it made

And looks for a way to retreat,

But so great is its fear

It somehow doesnÕt hear

The patter of four canine feet,

 

Then it gets a big fright

When it feels a deep bite

From sharp teeth that cut like a knife,

It turns its head to see

What the menace can be

And this costs the ogre its life.

 

For while itÕs distracted

Our hero reacted

And let rip with a mighty blow,

And the beast fell down dead

ÔCause he cut off its head -

As the illustration will show....

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY

INSIDE THE WEDDING COACH

 

When he hears a man singing -

His voice deep and ringing –

The king thinks his troops have come back,

The threatÕs been analysed 

His men reorganized -

And now they will counterattack.

 

But thereÕs no trumpet call -

In fact no noise at all -

Just the yelp of a nearby dog,

Then a humungous thump

That makes both of them jump

For it sounds like a falling log.

 

She hears someone approach

And climb up on the coach

Then a handsome face comes to view, 

ItÕs the man she once saw -

And has been longing for -

And prays all her dreams have come true....

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

NED UPDATES THE KING

 

Our brave lad sees the bride

With the king by her side

When he sticks his head through the door,

And he feels his heart twirl

For he knows itÕs the girl

That he had made fun of before.

 

When he hears the king shout:

 ÒIs it safe to come out?Ó

 Our young hero nodded his head,

Saying blood had been spilled

And a horse had been killed

But the monster was surely dead.

 

The kingÕs very thankful

That things are now tranquil

But wonders where his soldiers are,

For after the violence

There is only silence

And he finds that rather bizarre.

 

There should be much clapping

And lots of backslapping

For this was a great victory,

So he asks the peasant -

The only one present -

To see where his soldiers can be.

 

But when Ned looks around

And no one can be found

His answer is very polite,

He informs his sire

That, but for a friar,

There is not a person in sight.

 

ÒSo if not by my men,Ó

The king shouts out again,

ÒThen how did that huge monster die?Ó

And he felt rather dazed -

And a little amazed -

When he heard the young manÕs reply.

 

ÒI...ehh, cut off its head,Ó

Replied a blushing Ned

Still looking around for a guard,

ÒBut I have to admit

That my dog helped a bit

So it wasnÕt really that hard....Ó

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

LOVE CONQUERS ALL

 

The king looked to his side

And then told the young bride:

ÒThereÕs something that I want to say,

I know youÕve been dreading

Your very own wedding

So thereÕll be no service today.

 

 And I give you my vow

That from this moment now

To never again intervene,

And who is selected

Will be much respected

As husband to the future queen.Ó

 

She was oh so relieved,

As she straightened a sleeve,

And smoothed down her hair with her glove,

She said: ÒIÕll marry soon,

Perhaps this afternoon,

And this time IÕll marry for love.Ó

 

The king was delighted,

And rather excited

And asked who the young man might be,

ÒIt will be a surprise,Ó

She said batting her eyes.

ÒBe patient and soon you will see.Ó

 

They were both very calm

When Ned lowered an arm

And lifted the king with great ease,

Then, with mind in a whirl,

Out came the precious girl

As gently as the morning breeze.

 

As he set Alice down

In her ruined wedding gown

Ned fell upon a bended knee,

ÒForgive me your highness,Ó

He said with great shyness,

ÒI knew not back then it was thee.Ó

 

She took a glance around

At what lay on the ground

And marvelled at what he had done,

And the sound of his voice

Made her young heart rejoice

And she knew that he was the one.

 

His shirt might be tattered

And his boots quite battered

But, oh my, his shoulders were wide,

And her heart was racing –

Her love all embracing -

When our lovely princess replied:

 

 ÒArise now gallant knight

And pray tell, if you might

What is your most honourable name?

And you please must not fret

About when last we met

For there is no need to feel shame.Ó

 

ÒI am known as Large Ned,Ó

He said, bowing his head,

ÒAnd IÕm sure your Highness can see,

That I am but a serf

With an acre of turf -

As far from a knight as can be.Ó

 

She no longer looked sad

When she said to her dad

That this was the man she would wed,

So please to tell Barry

That he should not tarry

But find someone other instead.

 

Being very impressed

The king spoke with great zest,

In spite of the clothing Ned wore:

 ÒDo me this honour please

And stay down on your knees -

For you are a peasant no more.Ó

 

From all over the town

With their heads hanging down

He saw people start to appear,

And when he took a sword

From an overweight lord

The townsfolk all gave a great cheer.

 

 ÒYou knelt a woodcutter,Ó

They heard the king utter,

ÒBut now you arise as an Earl,

And should you desire,

Then it will transpire,

That soon you will marry my girl.Ó

 

And when the man nodded

The frown left his forehead,

For the king saw love in his eyes,

ÒThen I dub thee Lord Ned,Ó

A most happy king said,

As he watched his son-in-law rise.....

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

INSPECTOR SHAMUS SPEAKS

 

This might make you wince

But poor Barry, the prince

Well, he left without much ado,

And although he fell short

I am glad to report

The young man soon found someone new.

 

But letÕs now speak instead

Of our Alice and Ned

And this I am happy to say,

They made everyone smile

When they walked down the aisle

And married that very same day.

 

Two hearts now beat as one

And my story is done

For Destiny is satisfied,

The circleÕs completed –

The ogre defeated –

As I watch the Earl kiss his bride.

 

THE END

© Alan Maxwell